Tuesday, November 11, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Stonewalled by Sharyl Attkisson (Part 2)


This is a continuation of a book review of Sharyl Attkisson's new book Stonewalled: My Fight For Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington. To read Part 1 of my review, click here.

 
Chapter 4: Benghazi: The Unanswered Questions

For anyone who has followed this story, the attacks on our compound in Benghazi, Libya on the night of September 11, 2012, conjure up a web of deceit, duplicity and intrigue that we are still trying to decipher. The number of angles that could and should have been covered by reporters is multitudinous. However, outside of Fox News and a small number of mainstream reporters, the national press corps moved on after a short time. No story here. "Just a ginned up Republican story", they say. One of the few of those mainstream reporters that went against the grain and doggedly dug into Benghazi was Sharyl Attkisson. In Stonewalled, she chronicles her attempt not only to press through resistance from the Obama Administration, but from her own network.

Among the questions about Benghazi that she would ask were these, which she put to an Obama spokesman:


What were the President’s actions that night?


What time was Ambassador Stevens' body recovered, what are the known details surrounding his disappearance and death including where he/ his body was taken/ found/ transported and by whom? Who made the decision not to convene the Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG) the night of the Benghazi attacks?

We understand that convening the CSG is a protocol under Presidential directive (NSPD-46). Is that true? If not, please explain. If so, why was the protocol not followed? Is the administration revising the applicable Presidential directive? If so, please explain.

Who is the highest-ranking official who was aware of pre-911 security requests from U.S. personnel in Libya?

Who is /are the official( s) responsible for removing reference to al-Qaeda from the original CIA notes?

Was the President aware of General David Petraeus' potential [sexual scandal] problems prior to Thursday, November 8, 2012?

What was the earliest that any White House official was aware? Please provide details.

What is your response to the President stating that on September 12, he called 9/ 11 a terrorist attack in light of his CBS interview on that date in which he answered that it was too early to know whether it was a terrorist attack?

Is anyone being held accountable for having no resources close enough to reach this high-threat area within 8 + hours on September 11 and has the administration taken steps to have resources available sooner in case of emergency in the future?

A Benghazi victim's family member stated that Mrs. Clinton told him she would find and arrest whoever made the anti-Islam video. Is this accurate?

If so, what was Mrs. Clinton's understanding at the time of what would be the grounds for arrest?

Good questions! She (and we) are still waiting for answers to these and many other questions about this sordid episode in which an American ambassador and three other brave Americans lost their lives.

By the way, can you imagine what the press would have done with this story if this had happened under George W. Bush's watch?

As elsewhere in the book, the stonewalling by "the powers that be" at CBS and other networks is as much the story as the stonewalling by the current administration. I find it very interesting to note that the president of CBS News is the brother of top Obama advisor Ben Rhodes. Though she doesn't ever come out and say it, I felt that Ms. Attkisson definitely leaves you feeling that she suspected that CBS President David Rhodes is trying to run interference for his brother and the Obama Administration. Just a few weeks after the scandal broke, Attkisson states that "the lights went out" on the story. All of sudden, top brass at CBS are not interested in any more Benghazi stories (especially with the elections coming up in a few weeks). She makes the following comments about that time:


The height of popularity for the Benghazi story inside CBS is when I get Colonel Wood (a Benghazi security specialist) on camera in October 2012. But even then, not everybody is happy. I happen to be in New York City, where I've just picked up an investigative Emmy for Fast and Furious. It's the first New York visit that my producer on the Benghazi story, Kim, has made with me. She quite correctly detects that she's getting the cold shoulder from New York colleagues she's never met before. I'm getting it, too. I tell her I call it the Big Freeze and not to worry. There's no point in trying to figure it out; their response isn't logic based. It's visceral. Having worked at CBS for nearly twenty years, I tell Kim that there are groups of people who are so ideologically entrenched, they literally see you as the enemy if you do stories that contradict their personal beliefs. They may not even consciously understand why it is that they hate you— and I do mean hate— but they do. "It has nothing to do with you," I explain to Kim. "They don't like you because you work with me." She thinks it's crazy. I'm used to it.


She tells later in the book that CBS intentionally withheld a damning portion of a Steve Kroft 60 Minutes interview with President Obama that he held on September 12, the same day that the president made the famous rose garden speech, in which he called the attack everything but terrorism. The president would later claim in a debate with Mitt Romney that he had called it terrorism. (He didn’t, he was talking about 9-11-01.) Had the 60 Minutes interview aired in its entirety, it would have shown clearly that the administration was trying not to call the attack “terrorism”. This would be one of the many reasons that Attkisson would leave CBS earlier this year.

Chapter 5: The Politics of Healthcare.gov (and Covering It)

In this chapter, Sharyl Attkisson details her behind-the-scenes work in trying to unearth the reasons for the disastrous rollout of the Obamacare website last fall. Here again, the chapter is as much about the resistance from her bosses at CBS and the overall antagonism of the press to following up in what should have been a goldmine of stories related to the failed website.

One of the more interesting things that she reveals in this book is the strategies that the Obama Administration uses in "working" the press, i.e. the various ways that they manipulate gullible reporters into following the administration line. In this chapter she defines some of these tactics:


KNOW YOUR ENEMY Get to know the reporters on the story and their supervisors. Lobby them. If they don't adopt your viewpoint, try to discredit them.
MINE AND PUMP When asked to provide interviews and information for a story, stall, claim ignorance of the facts, and mine the reporter for what information he has.
CONTROVERSIALIZE Wait until the story is published to see how much the reporter really knows . Then launch a propaganda campaign with surrogates and sympathizers in the media to divert from the damaging facts. Controversialize the reporter and any whistleblower.

As I mentioned before, this last one is being used against Ms. Attkisson now during the rollout of her book. The "controversialize" strategy is something that you see playing out over and over when the Administration and Democrats and their media surrogates run up against someone who is damaging them. Attkisson would further define this strategy this way:


"Controversialize," as in the PR tactic that involves launching a propaganda campaign using surrogates and sympathizers in the media to divert from the damaging facts. They try to turn the focus on personalities instead of the evidence.

In the Healthcare.gov rollout, they would do this to House Oversight Committee Republican Chairman Darrell Issa among others. If your eyes are open to it, you can see this strategy play out again and again against various administration opponents. And the press is only too happy to participate in the character assassinations that ensue.

Chapter 6: I Spy – The Government’s Secrets

The last chapter of the book (although the Conclusion, in which Ms. Attkisson tells of the reasons for her parting CBS, is as long as a chapter) tells the story that is getting so much publicity. With the NSA scandal as the backdrop, she gives and account of her experience in finding out that her computers had been hacked. This chapter is like something out of Mission Impossible, except it’s totally credible. Three separate analyses of both her personal computer and her CBS computer found extremely sophisticated software installed in her computers which could have only been done by the government. One of her computer experts (who she calls “Number One”) made the following statement to her after examining the computers:

“First just let me say again I’m shocked. Flabbergasted. All of us are. This is outrageous. Worse than anything Nixon ever did. I wouldn’t have believed something like this could happen in the United States of America”

Then, in one of the most chilling sections of the book, she records this part of her conversation with “Number One:”

There’s one more finding. And it’s more disturbing than everything else.
“Did you put any classified documents on your computer?” asks Number One. 
“No,” I say. “Why?”
“Three classified documents were on your computer. But here’s the thing. They were buried deep in your operating system. In a place that, unless you’re some kind of computer whiz specialist, you wouldn’t even know exists”
“Well, I certainly didn’t put anything there.”
“Just making an educated guess, I’d say whoever got in your computer planted them.”
That’s worth pausing to let the chill run all the way up the back of my neck to the part of my brain that thinks, Why? To frame me? A source? My heart accelerates. I’m thinking it, but it’s Number One who finally breaks the silence to say it.
“They probably planted them to be able to accuse you of having classified documents if they ever needed to do that at some point.”

One of the more disconcerting things in the whole book is the attitude that her CBS superiors had about her bugged computers. While initially supporting her and then having their own analysis done of her computers, they at first refuse to release the findings to her. She then states:

CBS finally agrees to provide me a copy of Patel’s draft report. I’ve had further conversations that lead me to conclude my company may try to spin my computer intrusions as something dubious and indefinite . I’m given additional pause for thought when I learn that some CBS managers are quietly implying to selected colleagues, who are happy to spread it around, that the computer intrusions might be a figment of my “paranoid” imagination. I can’t figure out why they would say such a thing when their own analyst had long ago confirmed the intrusions verbally and in writing, in no uncertain terms. Why would some in my own company now attempt to discredit the computer issue and their own forensic expert? Weren’t they as alarmed as I was to learn that unauthorized parties were in the CBS system…Even more disturbing, word came to me that a CBS manager had convened a private meeting with a colleague asking him to turn over the name(s) of the inside confidential sources who had first helped me identify the computer intrusions back in January. The colleague didn’t have that information. Weird.
This and other parts of the book lead me to conclude that, as disturbing as her findings are, she may have only scratched the surface of the collusion between the mainstream media and both the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress. You can just go back to the mid-term elections that were just held to see that something odd has been going on with the press. The website “Newsbusters” found that:

when Democrats were feeling good about their election prospects eight years ago, the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and ABC’s World News aired a combined 159 campaign stories (91 full reports and another 68 stories that mentioned the campaign). But during the same time period this year, those same newscasts have offered a paltry 25 stories (16 full reports and 9 mentions), a six-to-one disparity!
Overall Conclusions

Honestly, to say that “Stonewalled” is an eye-opener is something of an understatement. If there is any overall takeaway from this book, it is that we are at least being grossly underserved by the mainstream press in our country, and (I would add) we may be intentionally mislead by them. In most instances, she lays the blame not on the reporters but on the “media elites” who run the show, not only in the newsroom, but in the executive suites in New York.

Yet, ironically, we are also living in an age in which there is a wider variation of news outlets and sources of all kinds of news than ever before. I get my news from many different sources. I start with Fox News (which has itself been “controversialized” by the other members of the mainstream press). There’s no doubt that Fox leans conservative, especially in its evening commentary programming. However, I think its straight news programming is far and away better than any of the networks or the other cable channels. If it weren’t for Fox and a few courageous reporters like Ms. Attkisson, we would know virtually nothing about “Fast and Furious” and “Benghazi” and a host of other scandals that the mainstream media avoids. Yet, I also scour many news sources around the world daily, both liberal and conservative, before I make up my mind about what the real story is. We simple can’t allow ourselves to ingest the "homogenized, milquetoast news” that we’re being served up day after day. Sharyl Attkisson says it best at the conclusion of her book.
Do your own research. Consult those you trust. Make up your own mind.

Think for yourself.
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Below are links to other articles I've written recently about current events:

The High Cost of Inaction
Is War In Europe Coming?
Oklahoma Beheading: Let's Call It What It Is!






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